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CONTEMPORARIES OF JOHN LEECH: RICHARD DOYLE
AND JOHN TENNIEL.
We gather from the article in “The Month ” which followed his death, and to which we have to acknowledge materials of which we have availed ourselves in the revision of the present chapter, * that Richard Doyle's first work was The Eglinton Tournament, or the Days of Chivalry Revived, which was published when he was only fifteen years old. Three years later he produced A Grand Historical, Allegorical, and Classical Procession, a humorous pageant which the same authority tells us combined “a curious medley of men and women who played a prominent part on the world's stage, bringing out into good-humoured relief the characteristic peculiarities of each." Apart from his talent, it was no doubt the fact of his being his father's son—the son of John Doyle, the once famous and eminent HB—which first attracted the attention of the promoters of Punch, and he was only nineteen when, in 1843, he was taken on the regular pictorial staff of that periodical. It was to the cheery, delightful pencil of Richard Doyle that the paper owed much of the popularity which it subsequently achieved.
“It was from his father that he not only inherited his artistic talent, but received, and that almost exclusively, his artistic training" The writer in “The Month” goes on to tell us that John Doyle would not allow his son “to draw from models; his plan was to teach the boy to observe with watchful eye the leading features of the object before him, and then some little time after reproduce them from memory as nearly as he could.... He had no regular training in academy or school of art; he painted in the studio of no master save his father ; and it is curious to see how his genius overleapt what would have been serious disadvantages to an ordinary man. ... He attached himself to no school; he was not familiar, strange to say, with the masterpieces of foreign artists. He had never been in Paris, or Rome, or Vienna." It will be well for the reader to bear this in mind, because Doyle is one of the few book illustrators or etchers whom the professional art critic has condescended to notice, and it will enable him the better to understand and appreciate the soundness of his criticism. No one, we are told, owed less than Richard Doyle “ did to those who had gone before him; and if this rendered his works less elaborate and conventional, it gave them a freshness and originality which might have been hampered if he had been forced into conformity with the accepted canons of the professional studio.”* The writer of the article from which we have quoted would seem to have read what Mr. Hodder has told us respecting his friend Kenny Meadows, for the following is certainly not new to us: “He was not a self-taught artist, for he was trained by one who had a genius kin to his own, but he was an artist who had never forced himself into the observance of those mechanical rules and canons which to ordinary nien are necessary to their correct painting (just as rules of grammar are necessary to correct writing), but hamper and trammel the man of genius, who has in himself the fount whence such rules proceed, and instinctively follows them in the spirit, though not in the letter. So far as they will forward the end he has in view, and no farther.” † It will be seen by the above that the kindly writer gives Doyle credit for genius, and we who are strictly impartial will cheerfully admit that if he had not positive genius,—which we somewhat doubt,-he was certainly one of the most genial and graceful of comic designers.
* The present chapter was written before the artist's death; but I have to acknowledge the great assistance I have derived in its revision from the authority indicated.
THE PEACE-AT-ANY-PRICE PARTY.
It was Punch's practice during the earlier years of his career to produce a new cover with each succeeding volume. * Richard Doyle, however, signalized his accession by the contribution of a wrapper which was considered too good to be thrown aside at the expiration of a few months. The well known and admirable design was stereotyped, and still forms, with certain modifications, the permanent cover of Punch's weekly series.
Specially worthy of note amongst his Punch designs may be mentioned The Napoleon of Peace (Louis Philippe), and The Land of Liberty, “recommended to the consideration of Brother Jonathan." In the latter, allusion is made to the Mexican war, rifle duelling and rowdyism, repudiation, Lynch law, and the then but no longer
peculiar institution." These will be found in the thirteenth volume, with a design of great excellence, Punch's Vision at Stratford-on-Avon, supposed to occur in the house of Shakespeare.
A new English (?) party had been growing up and gradually forcing itself into English politics. This was the Peace-at-any-price party, the members of which, oblivious of the fact that the best preservative of peace is to be found in a perpetual state of readiness for war, erased from their minds all remembrance of the position won for the nation by our glorious army and navy, and ruled that national honour and national obligations must now be considered subordinate to the interests of peace, trade, and commerce. Conspicuous among these men of the new school was Mr. Cobden, an able, earnest, but (so far as our foreign policy was concerned) thoroughly mistaken enthusiast. He figures as “ Peace” in Doyle's cartoon of John Bull between Peace and War (i.e. the Duke of Wellington). In Gentlemen, make your Game while the Ball is Rolling (1848), the best cartoon ever designed by Richard Doyle, the various European monarchs are engaged at roulette under the auspices of Punch himself. The ball is the world, and the edges of the board are respectively inscribed, “Reform,” “ Progress," " Republicanism,” “Equality,” “Constitutional Government,”
* One of these (and a very effective one) was the work of the present Sir John Gilbert.
“Anarchy," and “Liberalism.” Bomba of Naples having staked a large sum, he and other monarchs follow the erratic movements of the ball with absorbing attention. In the background may be seen the then Queen of Spain and Louis Philippe, who, having staked their all and lost, are just leaving the apartment. Another, following up the same subject, is the political sea serpent of “Revolution " suddenly appearing above the surface of the sea and upsetting, one after another, the cockle-shell boats in which the various European sovereigns are endeavouring to get to shore. The writer in the Catholic “ Month" points out the fact that “this picture was drawn in the earlier part of the year, before the Roman revolution, and the Holy Father was still riding safely unharmed by the monster which is working havoc in France and Germany, and Austria and Spain." In The Citisen of the World we find a capital skit upon the "admirable Crichton " delusion which made my Lord Brougham fancy himself in every character he chose to assume, or on any subject to which he condescended to give his attention, facile princeps. Here we find him figuring in turn as an English Lord Chancellor, a German student, a French subject, a French National Guard, an American citizen, a Bedouin Arab, a Carmelite monk, a Chinese mandarin, an Osmanli, a red Indian, a Scottish shepherd, and by the unmistakable nose and self-complacent smirk on his countenance, it is clear that in each and every character Henry Lord Brougham feels himself thoroughly at home. The Sleeping Beauty is a clever composition. “Beauty,” by the way, is Lord John Russell, and amongst the sleeping attendants may be recognised the Duke of Wellington, Benjamin Disraeli, Colonel Sibthorpe, and Lord William Bentinck; while the ever indispensable Brougham of course puts in an appearance, this time in the character of a jester.
Richard Doyle, as we have seen, was young when he joined the ranks of the Punch staff. Young men are apt to “ dream dreams," and one of Richard Doyle's was in truth a charming one. In Ireland: a Dream of the Future, he shows us our Queen gazing into the depths of an Irish lake, wherein she beholds prosperous towns, smiling fields, a contented peasantry, flourishing homesteads, a land flowing with
DOYLE'S DREAM OF IRELAND.
milk and honey. On the opposite bank sit in dreary solitude a starving cottier and his family. This was Richard Doyle's dream in 1849. He did not live to wake to the reality of 1884: half a dozen “Gladstone” bags filled with American dynamite, the property of subjects of a republic who allows her mongrel murderers to plot the deaths of thousands of the people of a friendly nation without lifting a hand or a finger to restrain them. A home government too weak to pass a law which would stop these outrages by hanging these foreign miscreants as high as Haman. These formed no part of course of the young artist's dream. He delighted in sunshine. The year 1850 was memorable for the repeal of the window tax, one of the most extraordinary impositions which ever crossed the inventive mind of a Chancellor of the Exchequer. “Hollo! old fellow," says a workman to his family, hailing the unwonted appearance of the sunbeams in their dark and dreary apartment, “Hollo ! old fellow; we're glad to see you here."
Among the numerous illustrations which Doyle designed for Punch, probably the most original were the series entitled “Manners and Customs of ye Englishe," which, under the title of “ Bird's-eye Views of English Society," he afterwards continued in the Cornhill Magazine in a more elaborate form. The “Manners and Customs " form a curious record of the doings of the period, and remind us of “Sam Cowell ” and the cider cellars, the Jenny Lind mania, Julien and his famous band, Astleys, the Derby day, and many of the forgotten scenes and follies in which some of us may have mingled in days gone by. They are very clever so far as they go; but none of them, as the writer in “The Month” would have us believe, are at all “worthy of” or in any way remind us of “Hogarth" (why are all the writers on comic art immediately reminded of Hogarth ?). “Each face in one of these pictures- A Prospecte of Exeter Hall, showinge a Christian Gentleman denouncynge ye Pope," says the same writer—" deserves a careful study, and tells the tale of bigotry, prejudice, and gaping credulity which has made Exeter Hall a bye-word among men.” Although we agree with the writer on this subject, we would at the same time take leave to remind him that the Catholics are singularly